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“The Russian attack against American democracy was not about hacking voting machines; it was an influence campaign,” explains Stupak. “It’s what they have done throughout their history. They have perfected these techniques.” As of mid-September, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Don Coats confirmed that Russia is continuing its efforts to influence the U.S. political system, by weakening and dividing the United States. “It’s all about encouraging divisions within society and encouraging some of those divisions to act in your favor,” says Stupak, calling it a form of social engineering. “As long as the nation is as tightly divided along partisan lines as we are now, it’s going to continue to be an issue. It’s going to reinforce existing partisan biases and that makes us very susceptible.” Dunaisky points to the prevalence and divisiveness of unverified, fake stories on social media. “I think this has been going on awhile and it’s just more evident now because social media goes two ways,” he says. “It’s not a television broadcasting it to you. It’s not a newspaper you’re reading. It’s not a oneway conversation like radio. People are engaged in social media. A large percentage get their news on Facebook. I don’t think it matters what side of the line you’re on.” Stupak agrees, noting that unlike earlier forms of media, the internet “repeats information across multiple platforms, well beyond the speed of truth;” and it’s not only happening in our country. So, what can you do as a mere voter? Watkins has this sage advice: Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. It might seem obvious, but let’s take a moment of silence for Pizzagate, a viral conspiracy theory which has since been widely debunked. This theory arose after Russia hacked former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta’s emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. His emails then popped up on whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, and the conspiracy theories took off. Twelve Russian intelligence operatives were indicted for the hacking crime in July. “You really have to be skeptical of what you read on social media,” says Watkins. “There’s no verification process, for the most part, and you don’t know where it’s coming from. If you’re going to take what you read hook, line and sinker…that’s not a good way to decide who to vote for.” Stupak warns that though Russia was fundamentally interested in an influence campaign during the last campaign, it doesn’t mean Russian President Vladimir Putin—and potentially operatives from other foreign countries—will only be interested in an influence campaign in the future. In the meantime, he suggests some steps for stopping the spread of misinformation. “Pause before you share things and ask, ‘Where did this come from?’” says Stupak. “If you have an emotional reaction to something, ask yourself, ‘Was it created for you to have that emotional reaction?’ and if it was, hold off on the sharing. If it’s real news other entities will share it.” Also, do your research on Snopes or other fact-based organizations and take real world action by volunteering for a community organization. “It is perfectly reasonable and normal to be upset about the state of the world and want to fix it, so go do that. If you don’t care enough to go do that, you shouldn’t care enough to share it on Facebook,” he says. “Your individual tweet is not going to change the status of whatever is making you angry, but if it originates from a nefarious source, you may be helping someone undermine American democracy.” www.davidlv.com | 51

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Profile for Max Friedland

DAVID  

October 2018

DAVID  

October 2018